Saturday, 31 May 2014

No Snow!

Zoe Panchen

Well not quite but there is a lot less snow here this year than last year and it feels warmer too. To give you an idea, compare the photo of Sofia near the entrance to the Sylvia Grinnell Park last year on 7th June 2013 with the picture of me this year at exactly the same spot on 31st May 2014, the sign is almost buried in 2013 but half out of the snow in 2014 a week earlier.

Sylvia Grinnell Park 7th June 2013
Sylvia Grinnell Park 31st May 2014


We saw the first species in flower on our first day out in the field, a small Cinquefoil (Potentilla hyparctica). It was an unusual species to see in flower first and this particular plant must have been in a perfect little microclimate. Usually the first species to flower is the purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia), the flower of Nunavut. Last year the first species we saw in flower was purple saxifrage but it was a week later. It seems to me that everything is at least a week more advanced than last year.
Arctic Cinquefoil (Potentilla hyparctica),
the first species we saw in flower this year
The temperature near the ground can be 10-15C warmer than at weather station height. This is because the ground absorbs the near 24hr sunlight and radiates it back out creating a layer of warm air close to the ground. Arctic plants take full advantage of this, forming little hemi-spherical cushions close to the ground and creating their own little micro-climate.

A perfect microclimate! Tufted Saxifrage (Saxifraga cespitosa)
in Resolute August 2nd 2013
This year we will be monitoring ground level temperature using thermistors and HOBO temperature data loggers. We have already set up these at our sites around Iqaluit. You can see from the photo below that this is a homemade setup! I used plastic Tupperware containers to keep the HOBOs dry, burned holes in the side with a soldering iron for the thermistor cables. Emma neatly glued the openings shut with a glue gun. I made little cloth bags filled with silica to prevent condensation in the containers as the HOBOs are not water proof. The thermistor is held above the ground and shaded from direct sunlight by a large plastic tent peg and held in place by the ubiquitous duct tape and cable tie! Programming the data loggers has been a pain to say the least; the data loggers are ancient and temperamental technology that needs patience and babysitting! We have been reduced to superstitious procedures when programming these HOBOs!
Temperature data logger out in the field at Sylvia Grinnell Park

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